Trips around Couze-et-St-Front
Couze offers access to the Perigord purple (Bergerac, wines and bastide towns) and Perigord "noir" of forests, walnuts, Dordogne activities and fortified castles
You need a car. And the Michelin 329 Local road map for Corrèze, Dordogne.
You will have planned to visit places that interest you. There are plenty of travel guides in the house,
Sarlat la Caneda, great for the Sunday market, via St Cyprien and Beynac et Cezenac.
Belves, Domme, Brantome.
A circuit through Le Bugue, the cingles of Limeuil and Trémolat and, on the way,
St Martin’s Chapel near Limeuil, one of three churches built by Henry II's son,
Richard I, in 1194 to expiate the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Thomas Becket (1170).
However, here is what we found interesting, and a bit different.
Tour 1 – Vézère Valley (Listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site)
1. La Roque St Christophe
Halfway between Les Eyzies and Montignac-Lascaux in the Vézère Valley – is a refuge built by the People of the Cliffs thousands of years ago. It is 1 kilometre long and 80 metres high and its natural rock shelters and long overhead terraces have been occupied by mankind since prehistoric times.
2. Château de Losse
Alongside the Vézère river Château de Losse is associated with Ophelia of Périgord, who drowned on her wedding day rather than marry the ‘horrid old’ Seigneur of Losse. It has now been completely furnished with tapestries, porcelains and other 16th and 17th century pieces. Great picnic area if you have packed a ‘pique nique’ for lunch.
3. Lascaux II
Lascaux, discovered in September 1940, has been referred to as the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of prehistoric art. Lascaux II is a reproduction (which took 15 years) of the the two most beautiful chambers, the Hall of the Bulls and the Diverticule Axiale (and comprises 90% of the paintings found in the original cave). The original caves had to be closed to the public due to ‘white disease’ caused by the carbonic acid from the breath of a million visitors.
From September to June you can only buy your tickets in a special booth by the Montignac Tourist Office. Usually have some guided tours in English – ring 05 53 51 95 03 (has details of visits in English).
The website for Lascaux II is http://www.semitour.com/, get English from the autres languages focus on the top right of the screen. We made reservations through firstname.lastname@example.org and found the English language tours were at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 3pm.
You can also book entry to Le Thot and castles at: Bourdeilles, Puyguilhem, Biron and Cadouin cloister, Abri Pataud at a discount.
Travel home by Limeuil to see where the Vézère and Dordogne rivers meet – maybe have a beer on the Terrasse overlooking the rivers!
The gardens and the village are worthy of a few hours attention, but thats another day.
Tour 2 – Dordogne Valley
1. Jardins de Marqueyssac
Laid out in the 16th century the gardens have waterfalls, rockeries and 150,000 ancient box hedges trimmed regularly. The garden is laid out in terraces and has stunning views out over the Dordogne river and a lovely café for lunch.
2. Gabarres de Beynac or Gabares Norbet
Gabares Norbet leave from La Roque Gageac with the French commentaries being simultaneously translated into English by the audio-guide system (no extra cost). The ‘gabares’ are traditional boats of the river Dordogne and were used in the past to transport goods.
3. Les Milandes
A beautiful Renaissance chateau built by Francoise de Caumont for his bride, Claude de Cardiallic and decorated with frescoes and sculptures. Today Les Milandes is a shrine to Josephine Baker, the most successful black American who went to France to escape racism. Josephine became the highest paid performer in Europe and bought the chateau in the lates 1940’s. After spending millions to restore Les Milandes she adopted 13 children of every race and creed. A demonstration of Falconry (or raptors) is held daily – usually at 3.30pm – need to check ahead for times.
Worth visiting if you have time – Château de Castelnaud + Château de Beynac.Top
Tour 3 – Bastides of the South
A bastide town was a new town built in the Middle Ages on the initiative of a lord, for economic reasons in colonizing and exploiting the area, and for military purposes in setting up garrisons guaranteeing security at the borders of their possessions. In the second half of the 13th century, the Kings of England, then masters of Aquitaine and of France built several hundred of these in southern Dordogne, in order to enforce their respective rights. Bastides played an important role in the vicissitudes of the Hundred Years’ War.
1. Beaumont du Périgord
H-shaped layout rendered homage to Henry III of England
Founded in 1284 by Edward I of England, Monpazier if the most intact bastide in Dordogne. It has a layout and architecture characteristic of bastides. The main square is bordered by houses of identical size, with archways and arcades at ground level. Around the square, the streets are designed on a grid system and lead to the gates of the city, protected by towers. Has many artisans (who, according to Bill, charge accordingly!)
3. Château de Biron
Was the seat of one of the four baronies of Périgord. It dominates the countryside around it, and its attraction lies in the many successive constructions which rub shoulders in complete harmony: 12th century keep, 14th century main buildings, and the 16th century chapel containing a tomb regarded as one of the masterpieces of French Renaissance sculpture. Good place for lunch.
If time permits:
4. Villefranche du Périgord.
Well worth seeing. It’s market hall still hosts, in season, one of the most popular cèpe markets in the region. Still has the war air raid sirens!
With it’s Chateau des Evéques (17th century) today housing the town hall. Also has a huge market on Sundays.
With its Cistercian abbey, whose main feature is its cloister, the galleries of which are decorated with 15th century sculptures representing not only biblical, but also satirical scenes.
Tour 4 – Vins de BergeracBergerac is the second largest producer of wine (vin) in the south west of France, after Bordeaux. There are 1,160 wine growers employing more than 1,700 people to produce over 80 million bottles of wine each year.
Check out the ‘La Route des Vins de Bergerac’ map in the house to decide which wineries to visit (there are over 100). Suggestions include:
1. Château de Monbazillac (# 51 on the map)
Monbazillac is famous for its ‘sticky’ whites. The grounds and two lower floors of the Château are open to the public (for a fee and check travel guides for opening times). Closes for lunch.
2. Château Bélingard (# 74 on the map)
Wonderful wine tasting with the Comte and Comtesse Laurent and Sylvie de Borsredon (we actually had a 2 hour tasting hosted by their charming daughter). The family has been in residence for 200 years and the buildings are on a 3000 year old celtic druid site (called the Stone of Belin, the Sun God, giving the name Bélingard meaning the garden of the Sun God). Details of all the wines produced, along with tasting notes are at the house.
The map at the house also provides details on those wineries where English is spoken.
Domaine Des Grand Quintins is a wine that is available very cheaply in the supermarkets.
Tour 5 – Around Couze et St Front
1. Rouzique Mill at Couze
The first mill at Couze dates back to the 15th century and at one point Couze could boast 15 working mills, as reputed abroad as in France. The Couze mills produced the famous Dutch paper watermarked with Amsterdam’s coat of arms.
2. Château de Lanquais
At Lanquais – a short drive from Couze this château combines aspects of a fortified medieval castle with a renaissance stately home. Usually closed on Tuesdays.
Maps of Bergerac are at the house – worth doing a walking tour around the town, and visiting the statue of Cyrano de Bergerac – even though the town was not named after him.